Discussions:Design and Science
Peter Hourdequin 4/23/2016
Private. Collaborators only.
I am an academic of sorts: a language teacher in a university setting. I do research that is mostly focused on understanding and improving practice. This once would have meant a focus on either teaching or learning practice, or both, but for me it now means focusing on the nature of my context, the physical and virtual activity spaces that exist as affordances for learning in my institutional setting and beyond.
For me, though many of the big-name journals in our field contribute useful theoretical insights, they rarely narrate how these are implemented in locally (culturally, historically) situated contexts. By virtue of their architecture and target audience (global academia) they are not capable of doing this. We have local (special interest group) journals, but most of these define their scope in terms set by the theoreticians who write in the prestigious journals. Doing this narrows the terms that can be used to describe local practice to those acceptable by a given “special interest group” (for example, “task-based language teaching.” But what is needed is a space for intelligent conversations around practices in similar contexts, not practices within the lines of theoretical/conceptual frameworks defined elsewhere.
I have thus taken the idea of producing an iteration of this type of journal to a few colleagues and have received responses similar to Raymond’s: its fine for MIT because they have prestige, but would this be recognized as legitimate by our institutions? To me though, this is an unnecessarily passive position. It assigns agency to external forces that only exist if we let them. The argument I try to make is that if we can gather a community of committed collaborators-- irrespective of their institution’s prestige–and design a space for the kind of discussions that are meaningful for us as academic practitioners, that space will have legitimacy. It may help to get some ‘big names’ on board to lend the space (journal) legitimacy (and draw a larger audience) in the eyes of our institutions, but if the scope of the space is well-conceived and articulated in line with local needs, I tend to think that there are many prestigious academics out there who would lend such projects the gravity of their names. The challenge is convincing local academics to take this step towards collaboration and community rather than continuing their painstaking efforts to get published in journals that exist in an imagined intellectual “center” (while believing they are writing from a periphery). It is about convincing people to believe that the language we speak to each other about our local teaching and research practices can have legitimacy if we choose to give that legitimacy to each other.